HOW TO TALK TO A FAMILY MEMBER IF YOU THINK THEY’RE STRUGGLING…
If you’re worried about a family member how do you start the conversation with them? How do you encourage them to talk to you or to seek help from someone else?
We know it can be tricky to talk to them about these really sensitive issues. But many people experiencing a mental health problem will speak to friends and family before they speak to a health professional, so the support you offer can be really valuable.
68% of people with severe mental illness disclosed to at least one ‘network member’ (that’s family member or mate to me and you).
What if someone doesn’t want my help?
We know that people suffering a mental health crisis often don’t recognise that they’re ill or in need of help – that obviously adds to the trauma when you’re seeing this happen in front of you and makes it difficult to have a conversation about it.
It’s in our nature to want to help them and make them feel better. But the truth is that in most cases you can’t make people get help if they don’t want it. They are an individual and, even though it may be tough for you, they need to make their own decisions.
Acknowledging those difficulties, and just being there for them, is most important. And there are things you can do to show you’ve got their back:
- Be patient. Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their feelings. Try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly with your own diagnosis or solutions. You won’t always know the full story, and there may be reasons why they are finding it difficult to ask for help.
- Be there for them. It sounds simple but listen to them. Then at the right time ask questions and be responsive. Offer to help them with everyday tasks to take some of the burden away.
- Reassure them. Let them know that you care about them. Offer emotional support. And if they don’t want to talk about everything now, then let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready to. Like you see in Brothers, a lot of people in psychiatric care can often develop a ‘Me vs them’ perspective and it’s important to try and emphasise the ‘I’m on your team’ vibe so that you don’t become one of ‘them’ to your family member.